Archives for August 2017

Drive and Connection

The Rewards of CEO Reflection

By Roselinde Torres, Martin Reeves, Peter Tollman, and Christian Veith.  Originally posted by the Boston Consulting Group  on June 29, 2017. 

CEOs live on a nonstop treadmill. They are under constant pressure to perform, live in a 24-7 spotlight of social-media attention, and swim in a deep pool of information. One CEO told us that she had received some 1,000 pieces of advice during her early days as the chief executive.

Corporate organizations are more complex than ever before. BCG’s “index of complicatedness” of major companies has been rising by nearly 7% per year for the past 50 years.

Deep thought and reflection are casualties of this high-pressure and high-stakes environment as CEOs rush from event to event and decision to decision. Downtime is often regarded as wasted time.

CEOs who do make time to reflect, however, say that it is time well spent, and our research on CEO success validates that view. Reflection leads to better insights into innovation, strategy, and execution. Reflection gives rise to better outcomes and higher credibility with corporate boards, leadership teams, workforces, and other stakeholders.

The most famous and successful practitioner of reflection is, perhaps, Warren Buffett, who says that he spends about six hours a day reading. “He has a lot of time to think,” says his partner Charlie Munger. “You look at his schedule sometimes, and there’s a haircut. Tuesday: haircut day.” Tuesday, in other words, is a thinking day.

Most CEOs do not have the luxury of limiting their daily calendar to a single act of reflection, but many of them could spend more time reflecting. It takes discipline, practice, and structure, but by routinely setting aside time in their calendars, CEOs can reap the rewards of reflection.

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Agility: The Power to Make Change Stick

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By Russel Pearlman, originally published in Korn Ferry’s Briefings magazine, Volume 8, 2017. 

As Rita McGrath tells it, it was a great strategy for a firm that needed one. For years a U.S.-based multinational company had been focused on selling commodity chemicals while giving away the expertise on how to use them for free. Now it planned to flip that business model on its head, developing long-term consulting contracts with its customers to capitalize on that highly valued advice. Projections showed that the firm could increase its profits from around 5 percent of sales to around 30 percent of sales.

But the reality never quite turned out that way. For two years the sales force never focused on creating consulting contracts—it just kept doing what it had been doing for years, selling as many tons of chemicals as possible.

McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, came in and quickly diagnosed the problem. The company hadn’t made the structural adjustments needed to pull off its grand strategy. That inflexibility brought everything to a standstill. “It’s inertia,” McGrath says. “People like to continue to do what they’re doing.”

In today’s ever-shifting global economy, brilliant minds are coming up with great strategies to get ahead. Yet an overwhelming number of these business innovations, cultural transformations and other great-on-paper ideas fail. Leaders will often publicly blame the economy, an upstart rival, the political environment or even the weather. But the truth is a lot simpler: Many of these plans start, but the firms and their leaders aren’t agile enough to make them stick.

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Purpose with the Power to Transform Your Organization

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Cathy Carlisi, Jim Hemerling, Julie Kilmann, Dolly Meese, and Doug Shipman; originally posted to BCG.com on May 15, 2017.

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Everywhere these days, people are talking purpose. As big believers, we’re encouraged by all the interest. Yet we’ve observed that many organizations are merely scratching the surface; they’re missing the full power of the kind of purpose that can transform.

Many organizations do a superficial job of articulating why they exist, settling for vision-setting exercises that lead to little more than catchy slogans and posters. Some craft purpose statements that are so generic they could apply to just about any company. Other efforts are inauthentic, like the politically correct promotion that has no connection to the company’s DNA. But even among organizations that articulate their purpose effectively, many are guilty of going no further. They do almost nothing to integrate purpose into the day-to-day experiences of their employees and customers. This “surface purpose” amounts to a thin veneer that doesn’t ingrain new beliefs and behaviors. Despite the hype, the organization remains unchanged.

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Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were

By Susan Chira, originally posted on New York Times on July 21, 2017.

A year ago, dressed in suffragette white and addressing a cheering, weeping convention, Hillary Clinton stood for possibility. Now she is a reminder of the limits women continue to confront — in politics and beyond.

More than 40 years after women began pouring into the workplace, only a handful have made it all the way to the top of corporate America. The percentage of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies who are women just passed 6 percent, creeping up (and occasionally dropping back) at a glacial pace.

Why don’t more women get that No. 1 job?

Consider the experiences of the people who know best: Women who were in the running to become No. 1, but didn’t quite make it. The women who had to stop at No. 2.

What their stories show is that in business, as in politics, women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now.

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Playing the Keys to an Electric Leadership Legacy

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Leo Fender was a pioneer in the design and improvement of the electric guitar.  As innovative as he was to music, his leadership was electric too.  His resonant tones moved millions but so did the progressive tone of his leadership.

Occasionally, the world produces one of those rare leaders who alter the course of history.  Disney reinvented entertainment, Einstein revolutionized science, Edison lit up our lives with the light bulb, Bell got the world talking with the telephone – and Fender electrified music.  Leo Fender has influenced every person on earth today – at least everyone who has ever heard a song.

When Leo released his Telecaster guitar, people laughed at him.  Noting their strange, flat design, his critics said that all his strange guitars were useful for was to paddle boats.  Yet, Leo’s guitars went on to be used by everyone from Elvis Presley to Eric Clapton and from Jimmy Page to Jimmy Hendrix.  Indeed, Rolling Stone Magazine published a list of the world’s top 100 guitarists, and 90 of them played a Fender on stage.

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